Botswana Space Science project on course

Even though the local space science initiative has experienced some teething problems Botswana Government has recently endeavoured in the implementation of a new Space Strategy, one of the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. 

According to pundits behind, the Strategy aims to place Botswana among the countries that are driving the Space and Planetary Science agenda in the continent. “For the achieving of these ambitious goals it is paramount to link Botswana tertiary education institutions, namely University of Botswana and Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), with international research partners. It is paramount, at this inception stage, to engage the local and international stakeholders,’’ said Fulvio Franchi of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).  

Exactly a year to this day, the country hosted a conference on the subject matter. ‘’Aim of this workshop was to promote a first meeting of the local research leaders that contributed in developing Planetary Sciences in Botswana and the international partners that have manifested interest in taking part in the raise of Space Science in Africa.”

The added aims and scopes of the conference were as follows: - To present the progresses in Space Science and Technology Strategy in Botswana. - To assess the new development in Space and Planetary Science in Africa from the perspective of policy makers and scientists. - To engage all the relevant stakeholders in the discussion of the future of Planetary Science in Botswana and beyond. According to a concept paper made available during the deliberations and is yet to be seen by the national strategy office for approval, it is believed there is a huge potential for space technology in Botswana. 

“Space Technology is being used in weather forecasting and climatology by the Department of Meteorology. The Departments of Telecommunications and Postal Services and Broadcasting Services could use space technology for high speed satellite telecommunications and broadcasting. Botswana College of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Research uses space technology in climate forecasting and remote sensing however potential use exists in drought monitoring for irrigation,” said part of the paper.

Researchers also agreed that institutions like the University of Botswana space technology for big data management, research and human capacity development, while those in innovation admitted that space technology could be used to spur innovation in ICT and other sectors of the economy through policy formulation and creation of conducive RSTI environment.

One man who is working hard (together with his team) is Dr Tshiamo Motshegwa. He is adamant that the issue is at the heart of the authorities in the country and there is nothing to stop them now. Motshegwa serves on the Botswana Government’s Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science and Technology task team for the Botswana Space Science strategy overarching developments and opportunities in space sciences and technologies and serves in Ministry of Transport and Communications ICT Subsector High Level Consultative Committee. He is also a member of the Botswana SKA & African Very Long Base Interferometer Network (AVN) Projects technical Committee, and the Botswana Open Data Open Science (ODOS) committee. 

“The use for space for development therefore presents many opportunities that cannot be ignored, and Botswana too has to respond to these prospects, hence the drive for the development of a national vision on space science,” said the DRST Deputy Director Tebelelo Tsheko during a presentation to the invited researchers who included their counterparts from the South African Department of Science and Technology.

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